The Shins – Port Of Morrow

April 12, 2012

I was fourteen, sat cross-legged on the edge of my bed looking out of the window to a farmyard on a summers afternoon, the sound from my tall-speakers hit the room like a wave; Young Pilgrims played. In the next six months of my life I sat through many a tidal-storm with Chutes Too Narrow and Oh! Inverted World being the instigators. I saw some shows, along came Wincing The Night Away and then silence. James Mercer left us hanging, checking-in every so often to wave a Broken Bells track or a David Bowie cover at us.

Until now, in 2012, a shuffled Shins line-up emerges with their latest effort Port Of Morrow. Before even listening to the record I had a lot of respect for James Mercers intrepidness – the amount of expectation on his shoulders is quite incredible considering the momentum they were gathering in the media when they took the hiatus. So, as pressure so often does, surely it would effect Mercers prolific song-writing quality?

Taken for a fool / Yes, I was because I was a fool

Im a fool, one only needs to take a glance at the depth of Mercers musical genius to know that he wouldnt succumb to that pressure. On your first listen the variety of song-writing is incredible; from the wistful optimism of Fall of 82 to the crippling energy that consumes you in Bait and Switch. Its nice to see him tackle so many dimensions again, much like the early stuff, as I felt that Wincing the Night Away was a little more ostracizing than their first two records. They pass one by one, blending naturally – the track listing being another stroke of proven quality. Instrumentally and texturally its very similar to the earlier records, perhaps posing the question about the value of the line-up change but who cares? Its obviously worked.

Records like this dont come out very often. Its great to see a combination of harsh guitar sounds, glimpses of electronic percussion, a classic piano, and a boorish lead vocal being enough to pride the quality of the songs. Such lyrical substance is really unique, metaphors boasted in a flurry accompanied with self-deprecating turns of phrase. Ive been selfish and full of pride, She knows deep down there’s a little child, But I’ve got a good side to me as well, And it’s that she loves in spite of everything else. No Way Down has a Bowie-esque charm and is sure to bring a smile to your face, along with the twee Simple Songthis record champions whats important about music in the twenty-first century; simplicity.

So the title track arrives to end the album, washing around my subconscious; reminding me about that wave that hit me when I was a Young Pilgrim.

-Oobah Butler

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